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This Is Not A Food Blog

My friend and teammate D’Juan Owens just came back from Peru, where he’d been living, training and fighting professionally for a few months. When he knew he was headed back, D’Juan posted a Facebook status about getting ready to finally eat all the great food he’d been craving — but couldn’t while training.

Now, I’ve been missing Okinawa lately. That might explain the gi design. But I’ve also been missing the comfort food I ate while I was living there. Okinawan food is fantastic, especially that most glorious of tubers, the Okinawan purple sweet potato. It’s sweeter than any yam you’ve ever had (and, interestingly enough, is a member of the morning glory family instead of the potato family).

Plus, it’s beautiful. Check it:

Okinawan purple sweet potatoes, cut in half.

Okinawan purple sweet potatoes, cut in half.


The tasty tater, known in Okinawa as beni imo, has been declared by Dr. Mehmet Oz to be a nutritional superfood. That really doesn’t

All manner of products are made from beni imo, from ice cream to candy to bread to chips. When I moved to the American South, home of sweet potato pie, it seemed only normal to make Okinawan purple sweet potato pie. I did some experiments. This isn’t a food blog, but I want to show you how to do it. The process and results are beautiful and delicious at every step.

Here’s how you can do it if one of your teammates returns from overseas and you want to bake them a pie. See how I brought this back to BJJ?


* At least one pound of Okinawan purple potatoes (in North Carolina’s Triangle region, you can get them at Grand Asia Market in Cary)
* 1/2 cup of butter
* 1 cup of sugar (you don’t really need this, because the tater is sweet enough, but you can use it. I use raw turbinado sugar)
* 2 eggs
* 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp vanilla extract (spices to taste)
* You will need a pie crust, too, Einstein.



Boil the potatoes for 40-50 minutes, until they’re soft all the way through.

I’ve boiled them with skin on, which makes the skin slide off easily, and after peeling them: the results seem to be the same in terms of tastiness and in terms of making this crazy purple-colored water. Someday I’m going to try to do something with the water, be it a soup stock or a clothing dye for someone’s new white gi.


No Photoshop,, I promise.

No Photoshop, I promise.



Put the potatoes in a big bowl. Take the 1/2 cup of butter (that’s one stick for all you non-measurers out there) and put it in the middle of the potatoes to facilitate melting. Then smash them like you’re in the world’s meanest side control position on them. Mash all the pieces out until the texture is basically smooth, like this:

Keep in mind, this has no ingredients added other than sweet potatoes and butter.

Keep in mind, this has no ingredients added other than sweet potatoes and butter.


Eat a little of the mashed potatoes. Taste how sweet they are, even without sugar. Get excited.

This step is not optional.


Add the eggs, spices and vanilla extract. If you have a hand mixer, blend it all together. Even if you don’t, using a hand potato masher has worked for me before. (Any old port in a storm). This lightens up the purple color a very little, so now it looks like this:

Almost there!

Almost there!



I usually make crust from scratch, but this time I got pressed for time and bought the vegan, gluten free crust from Whole Foods. It was the only crust they had left. I’m sorry, D’Juan.

Anyway, pour it into the crust. Back it at 350 for about 50 minutes. Put a chopstick into the top of it, and if it comes out clean (i.e., nothing is stuck to it), it’s done.

You can see my Make Sure It's Done Chopstick Hole.

You can see my Make Sure It’s Done Chopstick Hole.

There you have it. Now take it to training and tell your instructor I’m working on getting it Gracie Diet approved.



About Jeff

I write, work for social justice, listen to music and grapple. That's about it for now.

4 responses to “This Is Not A Food Blog

  1. Coulda fooled me Jeff! Sure looks like a food blog to me with all those detailed step by step instructions and purdy pictures! I teach a cooking class next weekend and was planning on making sweet potato pie and by golly after seeing the pictures I need to try to round me up some Okinawan purple sweet potatoes and make this instead! I think I’ll replace the pie crust with a nut crust to keep it grain-free and if someone with egg allergies signs-up I’ll have to replace those too, but darn-it there will be purple sweet potatoes (I hope)! I can’t get enough of the purple foods so this is lovely! Thanks for the non-food blog post.

  2. Jake Carlyle ⋅

    I’ve been to Japan several times (never to Okinawa though) and the food is fantastic. I actually am not a big fan of the purple sweet potato that I’ve eaten there, but maybe it’s better if you are actually in Okinawa. Guess it’s something to try again on my next trip there!

  3. Jeff

    Totally get to Okinawa, and totally try it. I’ve heard they have purple potatoes grown in Satsuma that are less sweet. Okinawa is the southernmost part of Japan, and, like Hawaii, has a hotter and more humid climate.

  4. Stephen Kim ⋅

    Oh damn, those purple yams are great. But for some reason when I get them in NY, 1 out of 10 has this funky bitter taste.

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